Gaston Garcia reviewed his brilliant career
The judo player from Rosario, a four-time Olympian, recalled his adventures with his brother, anecdotes with Emanuel Ginóbili and relived the controversial ruling that left him without a medal in Atlanta 96.
Gastón García is one of the greatest judo players in Argentine history: he was a four-time Olympian and won two diplomas: 7th in Seoul 88 and 5th in Atlanta 96. He also won 3 Pan American medals: Gold in Mar del Plata 1995 and bronze medals in Havana 91 and Winnipeg 99.
“It was about 20 years at that level, it is not easy. I lost my first Olympic qualification in Los Angeles in 1984 when I was only 16 years old and then I managed to qualify for Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta and Sidney. Before Athens 2004 I was still in top competition, but the state decided to take away my scholarship because of my age and it became impossible for me to reach my fifth Games. And I was also in Beijing 2008 as Miguel Albarracín’s coach”.
He was Miguel Albarracín’s coach in Beijing 2008
Gastón started practising judo when he was a child and has dedicated his whole life to the sport. He is currently a teacher at Gimnasia, the club he has always been a part of, the one that trained him in his beginnings: “We are a family closely linked to judo. We are three brothers who are dedicated to it. My brothers became South American champions,” he said.
And then he added a touching story: “With my brother (Pablo), who is 3 years younger than me, at one stage we shared a category and we always trained together. In a tournament we both reached the final, we fought hard and I had the misfortune of giving him a technique that damaged his knee. There was a lot of euphoria in that tournament. And when we both got to the locker room, crying, we told each other that we were never going to fight each other ever again. We continued competing in other tournaments and if we reached the final either he would let me win or he would let me win, but we never again competed or fought seriously against each other”, said Gaston, visibly moved.
But the gestures with his brother do not end there: “At one point he decided to step aside and leave me as the national representative of the category. That was very strong. It is a gesture that I will always keep in my heart. Not everyone does it. He had the same chances of going to an Olympic Games as I did, but he decided to free my path and went to work in Germany. At that time, I already had one Olympic Games and was looking for my second. At home, we always did everything based on effort and sacrifice. He had great support from family and friends and my dream was to give something back to all of them. I wanted to win an Olympic medal and share it with all those people because without them I wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere,” he explained.
And the anecdotes with his brother Pablo continue: “On the way to the Seoul Games, we had the first qualification to a Pan-American that took place in Buenos Aires. Those who won that tournament went to the Pan American qualifying tournament for Seoul. I reached the final against a very good judoka from Buenos Aires with whom I had already fought several times. At that time I had the problem of my shoulders popping out (in fact, I had been on the verge of quitting because of that). In the middle of the fight, my opponent, who knew me very well, took a shot at me and pulled out my shoulder. When that happened to me I threw myself to the floor because I couldn’t do anything else, and my brother got into the mat and the referee, faced with that strange situation, called for the mat, which meant stopping the fight, to get my brother off the mat (obviously) and there in the confusion, I took the opportunity to quickly put my shoulder and continue the fight and finally I was able to win it. That made it possible for me to go to the Pan-American where I came second and qualified, so I owe everything to my brother”, he recalled.
That medal that wasn’t
In Atlanta 1996 Gastón was just a step away from winning the Olympic medal he wanted so much. In the final for the bronze medal, a controversial referee’s decision was detrimental to him: “In Atlanta, I was doing very well. I had just won the Pan American gold medal in 1995, where I defeated in the final an American competitor who had been Olympic silver medalist and in the previous tour of 1996 I had won many medals, so I was doing very well. In those Games, I won 3 bouts and lost another very close one with the representative of France who later won the gold medal. So I went for 3rd place with Korea. When the bout started I reached to throw it, a shot that was clearly a score, but the judges did not mark it. At that time, the president of the international federation was Korean and the judges were chosen by the president himself. It was strange because they marked it and erased it and didn’t give it to me in the end. I then made a tactical mistake and lost, but if the score had been marked accordingly, I would have changed my tactics,” he said.
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